It was just recently announced that the Yankees would be retiring the numbers of Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Bernie Williams this season, and once Derek Jeter's is also hung up, it would mean the numbers of the entire Core 4 + Bernie will be out of circulation. That's five, maybe six, numbers retired in the span of two-three years. Am I the only one who doesn't think of that as a bit excessive?
The Yankees currently have 17 different numbers retired, 18 if you include the two No. 8's on the wall in right field. Pettitte, Posada, and Bernie would make 20 numbers all together, with 21 coming when Derek Jeter's number is finally put up there. That's by far the most in the MLB. You know who is second? The Cardinals with 12. Sure, the Yankees have had a lot of top talent over the years, but so have the Dodgers, Giants, Braves, White Sox, Reds, Pirates, and Astros–all of whom have reached, or are one number away from, double digits. Some of those players are Hall of Famers and some were All-Stars, but did they all deserve this distinction?
Pettitte, Posada, and Bernie were all great players, all part of a huge time in Yankee history, one that might never be repeated again, but in the end they were only very good players on teams littered with All-Stars and Hall of Famers. They very much deserve an honor of their own, and with the organization's new recognition series that will award plaques to memorable players throughout team history, it seemed like the perfect way to celebrate these homegrown All-Stars. Then it was announced that they would actually have their numbers retired. All of them. In the same year. So now I have to wonder what exactly is the criteria for getting your number retired with the Yankees. Do you just have to be a good player with the Yankees for
your entire most of your career? That leaves the floodgates open for too many names to count.
The best way to really do it would be to have some kind of solid, permanent criteria. Most teams require a player be elected to the Hall of Fame before becoming eligible for number retirement. I came up with the criteria that players need to be in the Hall of Fame and/or a Yankee for at least 10 years. Meaning, that if you're in Cooperstown, you should also have 10 years as a Yankee under your belt, and if you aren't, then you still need to have been a Yankee for 10 years and there better be a good reason that no one will ever wear your number again. By these criteria it would seem that some of the numbers they already have retired, shouldn't actually be retired after all.
If I was in charge of number retirement for the Yankees and that criteria was in place, it would mean that several of the numbers should be put back into circulation. Of course, this will never happen since it would cause all sorts of bad PR, backlash, and far too much drama, but still, bear with me here. It would mean that Billy Martin (1), Roger Maris (9), and Reggie Jackson (44) miss the cutoff by not spending 10 years with the Yankees while Elston Howard (32) and Ron Guidry (49) miss out because neither are Hall of Famers or really pinnacles of Yankeedom either. I was also never a fan of retiring Joe Torre's number, but if you're going to retire Casey Stengal's number I guess you can keep Torre.
It remains to be seen, but there's little chance that any of Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Bernie will make it into the Hall of Fame. All three were here for more than 10 years, but, if you remember, Pettitte left for three years (not really his fault) and none of them played the role that Thurman Munson, Don Mattingly, or Derek Jeter played while with the team. Retiring their numbers sounds like a nice gesture, and I'm happy to see them have their time in the sun, especially Bernie, but this just seems like more of a PR and money-making scheme than anything else. It kind of deflates the value of such an honor when you say that Jorge Posada and Joe DiMaggio are getting the same treatment. Both were memorable Yankees, but should they be remembered in the same way?
Maybe this is a meaningless argument and we should just all be happy that we got to experience a team as successful as it was with as many stars as they had. I don't know. How do you feel about it?